Is there any room for writers on the Internet these days?
Remember that massive rant I wrote a few months ago, in which I talked at (very) great length about how people keep saying blogging has changed, but it hasn’t, really – or not as much as people like to think, anyway?
Well, I stand by that. I still think a lot of the “changes” people tend to complain about are mostly changes in themselves – specifically, they tend to be the “changes” they notice when they decide to make the switch from hobby blogging to professional blogging: two things that seem like they should be the same, but which are actually completely different.
As I said in that post, though (somewhere in that post…) that’s not to say that blogging hasn’t changed AT ALL. There are some differences between what it’s like to be a pro-blogger now, in 2o15, and what it was like a few years ago, and the biggest one I’ve noticed is a movement away from blogs being purely about writing, and having to encompass a whole range of other skills, too. For instance…
Images are so much more important
A few weeks ago I spent literally hours one day taking photos for the blog (not outfit photos, either, just images to accompany posts like this one…) only for every single one to end up blurry, poorly lit, or just downright awful. A few years ago, this wouldn’t even have been a consideration for me, because a few years ago, blogging was primarily based around writing, and all you had to do was type out your post, hit “publish”, and call it a day. The only blogs that had photos on them were either dedicated photography blogs, or sites which talked mostly about products, and needed photos of the product in question: and even those blogs didn’t really place a lot of emphasis on the photos – they were often tiny and pretty boring, really, but no one cared, because it was all about the writing.
Now, though? Now even the posts that don’t actually NEED a photo (like this one, for instance) feel kinda naked without one, so blogging is as much about imagery as it is about writing. Don’t get me wrong, I do like this change, for the most part: blogs are brighter, bolder and far more visually interesting these days, and I guess that’s WHY imagery has become so important. For people like me, however, while photography/creating images can be fun, it does make your job a whole lot more challenging: writing has always come fairly easily to me, but photography I have to work at, so putting together a blog post is far more time-consuming these days than it used to be.
It’s not as easy to be anti-social
Back in the days of Livejournal et al, blogging was seen as a bit of a geeky pastime, really. It was what you did if you were a bit shy, or awkward or anti-social, and I for one am all of those things, so I leapt at the chance to be able to communicate with people without having to be around them all day. I realise that will sound super-strange to the extroverts amongst you, but I have a lot of social anxiety, and meeting new people is always a bit of an ordeal for me, no matter how nice they are, so blogging was perfect for me, really.
And now? Now it’s all blogger meetups and PR events, and while I know the social aspect of blogging is part of the appeal for some people (and one of the reasons it’s become so much more popular), for those of us who just want to write, and not deal with all that other stuff, it’s not so much fun, and can actually be pretty stressful. (Of course, you can just ignore all of that, and that’s what I do, for the most part: I do have to spend a lot of time explaining why I don’t want to attend tons of events every week, though, and then feeling like I’m being a “bad blogger” by not getting more involved in things that wouldn’t even have come up a few years ago. I also sometimes wonder if my blog would be more successful if I was the kind of person who jumped at the chance to go to a new event every evening…)
Social media. Just… social media.
Probably THE biggest change to blogging since… well, ever, really. Back in the day, social media first of all didn’t exist, then, even when it DID exist, it took a while for it to become a “thing”. I mean, I’d been on Twitter for God knows how long before it suddenly occurred to me that, hey, maybe I should post links to my blog from this thing? Now, of course, social media is one of the biggest sources of traffic to blogs, and it’s hard (for me) to imagine blogging without it. With that said, social media isn’t always a change for the better, either – I for one find it a bit overwhelming at times: it can be hard to stay on top of all of the various social media accounts AND keep a blog (or blogs) running, and I sometimes miss the days when all of the interaction took place in the comment section, and you didn’t have to go searching all over the internet for people’s responses to your posts.
As with the socialising I talked about above, you obviously COULD just completely ignore social media, and blog away in your own little bubble. While it probably wouldn’t be impossible to do that, however, I do have a feeling it would make it much harder to get a blog off the ground and make it grow: quite apart from the role social media plays in driving traffic to blogs, there’s also an expectation that bloggers interact with readers and brands, and I think it would be short-sighted to just bury your head in the sand and think you could create a super-successful blogging business while effectively shutting yourself off from the world.
Video is starting to take over
Finally, one of the most worrying changes for people like me is the extent to which video is starting to take over the blogging world. You Tube has been around for years, obviously, but it feels like it’s only in the last few years that we started to see the rise of the You Tube star, many of whom have become internet “celebrities”, and now everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon.
Along with You Tube, there’s also stuff like Periscope, Google hangouts, increasing use of video on Instagram and Snapchat… sometimes it feels like it’s not enough to just be a writer now: you almost have to become some kind of media “personality” who’s totally comfortable in front of the camera. The problem with that, of course, is that many of us just AREN’T: in fact, I’d guess that many of the “old school” bloggers – the ones who got into it because we can express ourselves in writing much better than we can in person – will be particularly uncomfortable with this move towards video, and live-broadcasting. I know I am: I quite often get requests from brands to take part in Google hangouts, or to film videos and I’m always a bit taken aback by it, because I’m like, ME? Make a video? Are you joking?
The things is, writing and presenting are two totally different skill-sets – TOTALLY different. Obviously you’re always going to find some people who are good at both, but I don’t think it necessarily stands to reason that someone who’s good at writing will also be good at presenting. I’m often amazed when brands offer to pay me to create video content for them without ever having seen me try to do anything like that: I mean, I’m flattered, obviously, but I always say no, because talking to camera just isn’t part of my skillset, and I know they’d be disappointed when I sent them a video of me sitting there like a rabbit in the headlights, bright red with embarrassment, and stumbling over every second word. Ditto the people who ask me to come and speak at their conferences etc – again, I’m flattered that they think I’d be good at that, but also quite surprised that they’d make that assumption without ever having SEEN me do it: especially given how much I’ve written about being socially awkward/shy/introverted.
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So, IS there any room left for writers on the internet of 2015? I hope so. Because, of course, we’re still here: we might be having to learn some new skills, and we might end up feeling a little bit left behind, or even drowned out by the videos, and the social media stars, and the people who are good all-rounders, but there ARE still bloggers who just write, and don’t worry about all the rest of it. There aren’t quite as many of them, though, and I sometimes find myself wondering if writing is enough these days, or it’s still possible to have a successful blog without having to become good at photography, video editing and public speaking, too.
What do you think?